Chairs Programme discusses importance of cooperation among participating universities

Monday, June 24, 2024

The WTO Chairs Programme began its three-day Annual Conference on 24 June, bringing together participants in the Programme to explore the role of trade in reducing inequality and the importance of international collaboration within the network of academic institutions.


Established in 2010, the WTO Chairs Programme seeks to bring together institutions into a network that works with the WTO and policy-makers on trade-related research, curriculum development and policy outreach. The programme currently comprises 35 universities. A call for applications from underrepresented regions is open until 30 June.


Two sessions will be organized as part of the Global Review of Aid for Trade 2024. One session will focus on evolving trade priorities for least-developed countries (LDCs) and another on LDCs' participation in digital trade. The full programme of the Global Review is available here.


Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will meet the participating WTO Chairholders on 25 June to discuss their role in supporting trade negotiations and in better harmonizing the work done in Geneva and in the regions and in economies where they are based.

The conference was opened by Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang, who thanked the programme's donors — France, Austria, the Republic of Korea and Australia. He said: “Throughout the year, we saw the Chairs come together on numerous occasions. Whether it was the Asian Chairs collaborating on the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, the African Chairs addressing digital trade issues, or the Latin American and Caribbean Chairs discussing WTO reform, one common thread tied all these efforts together: a genuine commitment to making the trading system more inclusive and functional. I must say the Chairs have done a remarkable job.”

France's Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Etienne Oudot de Dainville,  said: “The  widely diverse Chairs Network is extremely important to complement the work of experts in Geneva and in WTO members in developing trade-related knowledge within developing economies. The exchanges you will have throughout the conference will be essential in feeding into political reflection both in Geneva and in your economies.” 

The Republic of Korea's Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Seong Deok Yun, said that the Chairs are true partners in advancing the WTO’s aim to help developing economies further their development prospects through trade. “The Chairs are indispensable partners in the WTO’s endeavours. The immeasurable value they add and the transformative impact they bring reinforce our collective commitment to helping developing economies drive economic growth in their countries.”

Australia's Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador James Victor Baxter, said: “The Chairs Programme has proved to be useful and practical, establishing itself as a powerful tool in developing academic and research communities, especially in countries where development is a priority. Governments in this institution will be relying on you more closely as we work collectively to address upcoming trade and economic challenges. The very rich curriculum of this conference is a testament of the network's vitality.”

Wilma Viviers, WTO Chairholder in South Africa, described the milestones that her team has achieved through the programme, in particular the work on expanding export opportunities in different countries across Africa. She stressed that they have been able to extend the scope of their research and form close partnerships with policymakers through the Programme.